Kelley enjoys family and consumer sciences because she teaches life skills such as creating nutritional meals and financial literacy.
“Everything I teach is practical,” Kelley said. “They will be able to use it every day. It’s one thing to choose to buy food that is already premade or to eat in a restaurant, but I want them to have a choice and have the skills to make a meal at home. It is practical knowledge I know they are going to use in their future.”
Learning to deal with finances is a vital skill as well, Kelley said.
“Financial literacy is huge right now,” she added. “I teach juniors and seniors so they can do their taxes, budget, understand a checking account and credit card.”
Her program at Bloomer focuses on teaching students about poverty and food insecurity and how it looks in other Chippewa Valley communities. After attending a poverty simulation project in 2014, Kelley realized there was a growing need for free and reduced lunches in the Chippewa Valley. From 30% to 40% of K-12 students in the area qualify for the free and reduced lunch program, nearly double what it was six years ago.
“I want to instill the value of what it means to be food insecure and that it happens here,” Kelley said. “There is a problem here and we have to work through it.”
Food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
Fellow teacher Vanessa Sieg started the Hawk’s Closet at Bloomer High School. It provides food and clothing for students.
When Kelley realized students were not taking rice, canned vegetables or canned chicken and other more nutritious foods, she had her students create recipes and place them on cards using commonly available food pantry items to provide to other students, giving them the ability to cook a meal.
“They had to learn to standardize a recipe,” Kelley said. “They had to write the recipe using their English skills and so other students could understand it.”
As the students shared their recipes, some also shared their stories of how they and their families struggled financially from a lost job or during a divorce or another life-changing event, Kelley said.
“I don’t see a lot of people who don’t want to work,” Kelley said. “There are a lot of kids working jobs to help their families.”
When students are food insecure, it affects all parts of their lives, Kelley said.
“The deck is stacked against them,” she noted. “The likelihood of them getting a post-secondary education is less. It is less likely they will have a job with health insurance, less likely they will have reliable transportation and all of it becomes more of a struggle.”